When your first work isn’t your best work, hone your writing as you go.


Floating Donut by Scarce at Wikimedia Commons

Hi there, Readers.

Have you ever hit the send button to submit your work, but then only moments after uttered a Homer Simpsonesque, “Doh! What have I done?”

Few authors will admit it, but I’m going to be honest here, trot out on a limb and present my “Doh!” moment for your perusal. It comes with highs and lows of what worked and what didn’t.

After sending my MS off to the publisher I realized that things were missed here, could have been structured better there. Timeframe might have been made clearer, etc.. Not to mention that my story strayed from the style of conventional books on the subject. I took a risk writing my novella, Stealing Time, in a non-traditional fashion, and wasn’t sure it would play out.

Formulaic lessons of writing generally call for a tidy wind-up in true Spielberg style; hero leading everyone safely over the top of the mountain, sun caressing shoulders, planes flying past in salute, and everyone beaming smiles down on a shining end.

Well, I didn’t want that.

My original goal in writing Stealing Time was to craft it with content and ending that you might find in the comic book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, the original Watchmen. Their work left much to the imagination, some things hidden and simply not explained, and therefore open to delightful speculation.  A current example of the cliff-hanger style I wanted to replicate is Dirke Tiede’s manga-styled, Paradigm Shift. The author keeps me anxious to grab the next copy to see how it ends–or begins–come to think of it. Consider adding his series to your shelves.

But I digress; the desire to write in a way that was familiar to me as a reader, was harder to create as an author. I  ploughed my way inexpertly and inelegantly through my manuscript with plenty of “Doh!” moments. And yes, comments after publication on Amazon reflect those mistakes. Fortunately, most folk who read it liked it, but more importantly, they voiced complaints. What readers had to say provided a place to start in terms of improving my writing, even if it was after publication. So, what did I learn from the “Doh!” factor?

I practiced my art, writing to their demands to bring them an improved experience in the sequel. The readers  became my guides in bringing secondary characters into play, having them better developed, digging deeper into the plot, etc.. But, stubborn to the last, I kept true to my original vision, tried various techniques to explain just enough but not too much, because I remembered something else that shone through those reader comments.

Most of them wanted more.

Though my fledgling novel had holes in it, my goal to create a cliffhanger, something I haven’t often come across, succeeded because my readers liked it. It drove them crazy that it ended where it did. They were startled that not everyone had been saved, that questions went unanswered, that the plot thickened only to come to an end. The outcome? Mistakes of my first book were balanced by its success of keeping the readers engaged, turning the pages, and wanting more.

My point is, your early efforts might not be your Magnum Opus. Perhaps they fly in the face of traditional thought or style. Whatever your personal experience, consider a few questions: Can you know what your best work is if you haven’t yet written it? Moreover, how can a work with mistakes possibly be a success? By all means edit, and edit voraciously, but until you risk sending your book out into the world, how can you know if it will fly with your readers?

The answer lies in how you perceive success, and I have a theory that every book has an audience anxious to turn its pages, even through “Homer” moments.

*If a reads your work, even leaves a negative comment, if they point out where the author lost them, you have a map for your next efforts to impress Mr. Tough-Reader. That leads to working harder and smarter, which leads to higher knowledge and better acceptance from a tough audience.

*When a person takes the time to read your work and leave a comment, even if the comments are mixed, consider how many other books they might have read, and perhaps not commented upon. A great or mediocre response to your book means it is worthwhile to that reader, and their comments are an open invitation to hone your skills and delight them further in future.

*Finally, a book’s influence can be measured by what a reader takes with them when the last page is turned. You may not consider it your greatest achievement, but someone else may have an entirely different opinion. One of my favorite comments for Stealing Time, though not written on Amazon, was relayed to me through a bookclub. The reader said, “It angered me that it ended.” What a great compliment! Why so great? Because it touched off an emotional connect to the story and the characters and left him wanting more.

That’s more than enough encouragement for me to continue pounding the keys.

Write to Pub Wednesday: Too busy to write? Roll with it for inspiration.


Do you ever feel that there isn’t enough time in the day to create, write, edit and tend to all of the people and responsibilities in your life?  Granted family comes first, and your friends do need your attention, but perhaps you procrastinate over writing because going for a drink with a pal calls to you louder than your manuscript revisions. Maybe your plot has pockmarks, akin to the holes I found in my story this week; but sorting old clothes or making the house look spotless, or doing homework with young Billy keeps you from focusing on your work in progress, and you feel you just can’t think. Has your creativity become lost in the noise of living?

Should we, as writers become removed from family, friends and necessary activities in order to get spark back into the story?

Not necessarily. Instead of trying to absent yourself from living your life,try to just go along with the flow and draw from the din of living the energy for your theme.

I had a lot to balance this week, and a ton of writing to accomplish, but felt my creativity dragging in the face of the mountain of work ahead of me that had nothing to do with writing. I thought, how am I going to have energy to create if by the time I can be alone with my thoughts, my head aches from the spin cycle? How to go about scribbling, yet include people, chores and activities between writing sessions without engaging the inner hermit? What I found this busiest of days, was that activities from research to meetings, preparing dinner, taking care of chores, nurturing family, and visiting with friends could add content to my writing.  As the hot afternoon smouldered into a warm evening and finally became a welcome cool night, I found it also crept into my head as ideas for my manuscripts.

Don’t get me wrong; some days the need to schedule time away from friends and embrace the hermit-self that wants to hide with the dust rhinos under the bed, or crawl under a bush somewhere to scribble in peace must be obeyed, but there comes a day to let family know they are the most important part of your life, but you must pencil in time to focus on your thoughts and pound a rhythm to release them on the keyboard or you will explode like an unpricked potato in a hot oven. But often, because this is real life and not a fantasy where you have all day to hit the idea board, it is more of a juggling act to balance all of the demands and joys of living with the tug of your creative, writer’s soul.

Instead of fighting the loved ones and the business of your life, try my experiment.

Instead of fighting for time to think separately about my storyline, I opted to roll with it and include everyone or incorporated many of the day’s activities into the tale. Short observations and fleeting ideas went into a small notebook kept nearby for that purpose. Bits of conversation, the lavender aroma of clean laundry, the glory in the bloom of a garden flower, smell of turned dirt, and the feel of moist earth between my fingers, color of cooked marinara sauce, all fed into ideas for my manuscripts. As evening fell and I carved out a peaceful moment to enjoy a glass of wine with a friend, I felt a certain ease of spirit that had been absent while I was trying to knock down the door of creativity. By the time I was able to sit down and hit the keys, there were several pages of quick notes as fodder for the work to come to jog my memory; ideas to draw from that put a real  sense of color, liveliness and passion into my writing.

So, yes, the day was crazy busy and time for contemplating writing had to be nurtured throughout its progress, yet no one had to go without clean socks, a hot meal, or a doctor visit  just so I could think about what to write. Now I know that it is possible to store both the din and the more pleasurable for later use when the actual scribbling time, the ass-in-chair moment presents itself. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by everything that needs to get done, like a donkey with an upset cart, I’m making the cart steadier by giving it new wheels.

So just roll with it. Live it, breathe it, fell and touch your busy life and those places and fine folk, and even drags who populate it. Take note of what the day holds for you as a writer. The notebook will keep the thoughts present until you have your free time, and the results may surprise you by enriching your writing, just as all of the perceived noises have moments that enrich your life.

Cheers!

C.K. Garner

Publishing on your blog…Don’t unless you already have a copyright in place!


A friend of mine, Nishi Serrano, a featured Horror author in the Hellfire Book of Beltane Anthology (yes, that is a shameless plug for her frightening tale “Old Looshi”  in that Anthology) on occasion puts up an excerpt of her work in progress or a segment of already published material in her Blog.  When I asked her if I should do this, too, her answer was a resounding, “NO!”

She explained that the segment she crafted utilized a character for whom she already had copyright protections in place  or she wouldn’t have done it.

Putting up segments of your own already copyrighted work, is fine, as long as the publishing house you are with, you and your agent all agree on what limitations, if any should apply.

Use caution with your work, and make sure that if you put it on a public site that you own the copyright for your characters.  But be aware ,too, that some publishing houses won’t touch work that already has a copyright, including those published on a Blog or Facebook, Twitter, etc., by their own Authors.  The legalities and risks are changing somewhat with e-publishing business coming rapidly to the fore, but again, use caution and do a bit of research to protect your writing and your interest of same, to do otherwise could be a scary experience fit for a horror novel!

Can you take the Heat?


A good Critique hammers out the bumps in your manuscript!

If someone asks for a critique, or for you to go over their writing, should you?  Would you be kind or let ‘er rip and tell them what’s  not working for you? On the receiving end, how do you handle being Critiqued? Today, I read a  manuscript from an acquaintance, then related what I felt worked and what didn’t. Instantly I became public enemy #1.

In nicer words than those here, I pointed out a lack of tension causing the story to flag and my interest to wane. I tried for constructive criticism— because I want very much for my fellow writers to keep working at it and not give up– applauded parts that flowed to the concept of the tale; but mentioned disconnects between actions of the characters and the reader trying to comprehend the flow of the story. The key here is, what I took in was what the writer conveyed in their manuscript.

The writer decided I am too much of a novice to critique them and could not see the picture they conveyed. Au contraire; I was picturing Giovanni Ribisi, one of my favorite actors, in the Protagonist role, and I tried to see scenes in full realization as they stuttered past in my mind, Giovanni looking for direction. I presented a few suggestions that might improve the MS, but the writer rejected any alterations, fearing tidier segues would change it too much; if they introduced more  feeling of the place, tried to build a bit more on the characters, then it wouldn’t be their story anymore. Topping off the list of backpedaling the writer expressed they shouldn’t have to personally explain each scene for a reader to get it.

On the last gripe I agree. The writing itself should speak to me. Setting, conflict and resolution should convey to me, the Reader, what is happening in the story. Tension should keep me wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next, and each scene should ease into the next instead of me flipping back and forth to find a connection; bringing to mind Giovanni: all apologetic, his character says, “I’m sorry, but can you point me to the nearest segue?”

I have come to the conclusion that some folks don’t really want a critique.  They want you to read their work and tell them it has points so well-formed they stab you in the eye while perusing the brilliance of their  DARLING bit of fluff, and now you must wear an eye patch and become a pirate, you are so blown by the wave of their stature.

Give me an effing break.  Better still, don’t ask for a critique if you can’t take the heat.

Here is my take on how to handle a Beta Reader‘s POV: Welcome the harsher voices, the gulls of Criticism if you will; their opinion is as valuable, perhaps more so, than the sweet voiced variety of Critique.

The best Authors and Writers, or at least my favorites, are happy to have people read and share their thoughts of the characters and settings and how these work with each scene.  Equally, they welcome the point where you fell asleep reading their  tale. This is because they want to kill that bit of needless fluff  to make it read better, and take their writing to the next level.  They crave, I crave (!) to know what interferes with the flow of the story, where the bogs are that suck away the action, when it is too candy coated and needs added complexity, or where the story has too much description and wants a good conversation between the prime characters, or even the comic relief to ease darkness, just a little, see?  A good Critique gives you possibilities.  

The best thing about encouraging your friends and acquaintances to read your work, to critique it, is that they are your first audience!  *applauds beloved Beta Readers* If you pay attention, really take their constructive criticisms to heart, you will discover that their eyes are invaluable, because they are not in your head. They are Joe Reader. If they get it, chances are your future audience will, too. If they are struggling to wrap their heads around a passage, perhaps you should revisit and make that concept clearer.

It is human nature to balk at criticism, but if we unplug from our initial negative reaction, we open ourselves to the Reader, gleaning that pearl of wisdom that makes our story have luster. So, leap into that boiling cauldron with a smile. Find some Readers to critique your work, then tell them to please, turn up the heat, you can take it. Your work will be better for it, and your naysayers will at the very least respect you for being able to swim in the deep end of the pool of magma.

Well folks, my manuscript calls…a great friend of mine red-inked the heck out of it…for which I thank her!  I’ll take the advice and change what needs tending, toss the rest…that, too is valuable. 🙂

Keep writing!

See You Around,

C.K. Garner

And the Blog played on…


Coffee Break!

This weeks Blog is dedicated to Tunny, who gave me props for focusing more on the Writing of my manuscript and less on my Blog.  So, it is a little ironic  that I’m here blabbing to all the world about it, but it got me thinking about all the ways in which I procrastinate about hitting the keys.

If you are like me, it’s really hard to make yourself write more and visit with folks less.  There always seems to be one more person you can share with, one more funny email you can respond to, eight more things you could Blog about, someone who needs an answer to a text message, etc., right?

However,  all the texting, visiting or emailing with any of those wonderful people are sucking up time you could be spending on your manuscript.  You wanna get those idea down on the page?  You need to detach a little from your electronic umbilical cords, and tell everyone to sit tight, you’ll get back to them after you’ve written the next chapter.

Now that I know I can begin a story, craft a middle, and have a notion of an end, from where I’m at now, the point is to COMPLETE my manuscript .  Completing my manuscript needed to become, and has become more important to me than socializing.

If I spend a majority of time Blogging, my manuscript writing time suffers for it, period.  But, because it is my Blog about my writing, it’s okay to take a break now and then and Blog for a little while.  Did y’all catch that, NOW & THEN .

I am Blogging now because I took a bit of Writer’s Break.  I was on a writing roll for the last several hours, body starting to grow sore and stiff, and my eyes feeling a bit dizzy.  Good time for a break and a cuppa Joe.  So, I decided to check my email and I noticed a comment on my Blog.  This being my break, I allowed myself to follow it, and here’s why:

I’ve a new rule about breaks:  During a Writer’s Break, all socialization and attachment to the electronic umbilical cords must be solely to people who are Authors or Writers.

I know that other Writer’s understand the need to be mostly absent from the world so you can write, and you don’t expect me to Blog or contact you every day.  You expect me to have my nose to the proverbial grindstone, churning out the pages and mixing my metaphors.  I expect the same of you…except the part about hashing up the metaphors.

One of my favorite Authors, Seanan McGuire said, “Writing a book is a solitary exercise, actually finishing it is not.”

She is referring to all the people who helped her in getting her manuscript through all of the stages of proofing and the many people it took to read and reread and hack out the stuff that she couldn’t see through to edit out herself, along with those who hosted her when she was writing abroad, and folks who simply listened to her whine.  Notice that even on the home stretch there is still a lot of writing to do?  I highly recommend McGuire’s Blog  50 Thoughts on Writing for her best Writing tips.  Check it out.

So, our writing Blogs are important for us as Writers aspiring to be Authors.  They are a place where we can get writing advice when we are crumpling up the 20th false start.  They are a safe venue for venting our frustrations and cheering ourselves and each other on when the going gets tough and the tough want to quit and take an aspirin and a shot of whiskey, or to offer the same to another Writer in need.

All of this until the day we become an Author.  That’s when our Blogs become part promotion and part lesson, where we answer questions about how we got there to our fans, and why we didn’t off ourselves instead to our worst critics.

Right.  Time to get back to my manuscript, folks.  Thanks to you all for reading this Blog, and may you get right back to your manuscripts; my coffee is finished and this Writer’s Break is over!

What?  Are you still here?  We’ve got work to do!  Ciao,  C.K. Garner  😀

On Writer’s Blog


I'll be around...

Dear Blog,

I’m afraid I owe you an apology.  I have been neglecting you lately, I know.  Like a houseplant or a pet you desire interaction, and must have your nutrients and my time to be happy and thrive, and I have been spending my time with a different love.

This may be hard for you to hear, but I feel I must say it, just get these guilty feelings out so I can clear the air!  So, yes, I have been neglecting you in order to spend quality time with my manuscript.  She’s so creative and beautiful, and I find that the more time I spend with her the better she gets, and the more rounded a writer I become.

So, I just want to say that our relationship has to be whittled down to, I hope, a mutual friendship.  I just need a little space to work on my relationship with my manuscript and see where that will take me…Us.

Just remember, you can rely on me still, as a friend, a shoulder to cry on, whatever you need.  I promise to visit periodically, but I don’t feel it is fair to you to stay in a close relationship…for now.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’ll be seeing you around.

C.K. Garner

Get into Character!


What a Character!

Do you start your story with all of your characters already written out?  Do you know how they will act, what they might say?

I am a person who sucks at dialogue; but now, because I’m dabbling in character creation, I feel like I’m learning, or they are teaching me… it is as if the characters, once created are speaking for themselves, each with a distinct voice to suit his actions.

The fun part of writing is pushing the situations just little bit, or a whole shove from the norm, at the same time as  trying to keep it real.  The characters can help you along, or you can create a character grid, and make sure to follow closely.  What might a character do?  How far should you push them?

For Example, if I think a character is vain, I really get silly with that vanity, i.e., I try to take it way beyond what a normal person might do.   I’ll have them missing conversation, irritating people, and losing weight because they are so engaged in their reflection in the dinner plates they forget to eat!  If a person is clumsy, I have them tripping all over the place.

Are they an evildoer?  They are going to take a shot at your baby sister’s baby bunnies, drag the key down the side of someone’s car, blow up pigeons for fun and chuckles, and generally wreak havoc.

Same goes for nice.  Made of sugar, but sometimes spice is the answer there.  As for the middling ones, it helps to shove them over either edge to see how they will handle the drop.  Sometimes a character will grow if you push them, this is especially true if you shove each into the other!  The characters will tell you what they will and won’t do along the way once you start getting them down on the page.

I like to take them to extremes because it makes the story better, even if I tone them down later.  It’s just fun to have a character go beyond the bounds of what is the accepted “norm”.  The lengths to which you can manipulate your characters into a twisted tale are endless, and even impossibilities are, well, possible if you decide they are real enough to write them down!

For the rest of the month I’ll be catching up on all of the possible goofs I have missed in adding the new characters.  I want a seamless blending where I have added them in, which means line by line editing.  I take the time when doing this to catch dropped punctuation, spelling errors, grammatical no-no’s, etc..

It is also a good time to check and see that your characters are showing, speaking, and acting it out rather than you telling the story.

Believe me, no matter how many times I go over it, I catch a couple more errors, and kill them off, hiding the evidence, so that by the time I get to the end, I will be ready for the next batch of revisions from Friends, Beta Readers, Agents and Editors.

I recommend you  try adding a couple of characters and see what happens with your story.  I’ll bet it grows in ways you didn’t expect.  Have fun playing in your world, the company is great!

C.K. Garner

More On Audience:


Don't know who your audience is? Find the perfect fit using character and content!

I commented to a recent blog:  Foetal Positions in an attempt to explain why I blog to an audience, but it got lengthy, so I decided to expand on the manuscript portion of my answer here.  For me, content  and character are  high on the list in choosing my audience,  and you might consider examining this for yourself if you elect to have an audience at all.

I thought I was writing a fantasy novel for adults, but it may be a young adult novel instead, or perhaps a young adult dark fantasy book, due to its content and character development leaning in that direction.

Though the situations may be a bit dark,  young people live in a much harsher reality than society gives them give them credit for understanding.  By the time they are teens many are exploring darker imagery.   However, beyond the darker side of life and pushing boundaries, my manuscript is growing into a coming of age story on its own, but I think that it can be enjoyed by adults, too.

Now, this was not really my initial plan, but rumor has it there is an audience for YA fiction, and lets face it, who amongst us wouldn’t want to have our scribblings published, perhaps be successful enough at the game that we can, if not quit our day job, ease up on those hours and devote more time to writing?

I have another manuscript started, a horror novel.   This second enterprise is definitely adult in content, moreover involves murder, sex and violence, and it is already holding steady in the adult audience position of its own accord, the characters dealing with adult situations more graphic than in my fantasy novel, even as they grow through solving the mysteries and murders, and evolve in their character arc.

My audience with the first novel, when I’m published, will likely be adults at first; those who have guided me on my journey, and those friends who will buy one to show support, but I’ve a feeling my young adult audience will trickle their way through to find my bit of work, and with any luck, come back for more.

The second novel will pull in a mature audience, and have a following in perhaps both the horror and dark fantasy genres.

Here is one thing to keep in mind when writing to your  audience, and your intentions and responsibilities toward them:  This quote by agent Jon Sternfeld“All genres are mysteries…” 

What this means is that you, as a writer are attempting to engage your audience, your readers in a play of, “Hey, there’s a mystery to solve here,” or a dilemma to overcome, etc., and you promise, as an author to give them a bit of a peek, a chance to anticipate, participate, and unravel the clue, to care about the characters, and solve the problems presented, regardless of genre.

http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.comblogAgent+Jon+Sternfeld+On+Engaging+Your+Audience.aspx

Batton Lash in Good Company at ArtLabs Studio


Durante el panel de Troma, comentando sobre el...

Batton Lash: at Troma Panel

Batton Lash, The Author of Supernatural Law and one of the writers of Radioactive Man comic strip among many other hats (mentor and friend to C.K.Garner among them) launched his new studio this evening!  See his comic book series here: Batton Lash/Supernatural Law

Located within ArtLabs Studio on San Diego’s famous Adams Avenue, a street long known for its antique galleries and Street Fair, Lash’s new studio found perfect company with four other artists who share the ArtLabs Studio space, and whose works were featured on every wall.

The opening of the new studio coincided nicely with the annual Art Around Adams event, here’s the link:
Art Around Adams

A constant crowd of folks flowed into the Art Lab building from the two mile long Art Around Adams Walk, which features art and music incorporated into local businesses, a truly unique format in San Diego, checking out the art on every wall, chatting with the artists, and sharing champagne toasts all around, accompanied to live music.

I had the opportunity to meet and chat with James Hudnell author of “Aftermath: Humanoids” who gave me a great mini lesson about “theme” and “character arc” in writing, which I will be thinking about as I continue scribbling my own manuscript, you can see his work here: James Hudnell Aftermath: Humanoids.  I enjoyed the fine company of one of Batton’s long-time artist assistants, the charming Madame Melissa, as well as meeting Batton’s famous wife, at least famous for all Geekdom and comic book fans, Jackie Estrada.

Though though you may not have met her, if you are a Comic-Con International fan, you’ve likely seen Estrada’s name and work.  Jackie is the administrator of CCI’s Eisner Awards, which represent an Oscar equivalent for best of the best in the Pop Art and Comic industry, and has for years been the editor of several Comic Con related titles as well as holding the position as co publisher of Exhibit A Press.  So, this was a night of high falutin’ company indeed for this very new Writer!

Hats off to Batton Lash and Jackie Estrada; pioneers of the small press industry!  Congratulations on the new studio!

C.K. Garner

Ode to a Brainstorm


storm cell #9

Brainstorm!

A couple of Blogs back I promised that this week would be add a few new characters week for my manuscript.  I played with a few ideas in my head, none of them bearing real fruit until I had a waking vision.  I was munching my dinner in my car when suddenly my mind opened up with a great picture of  a creature; a scary, but beautiful night creature.  Yeah, yeah, I know you’re all thinking Vampire, right?  Nope.

I have been re-reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which I mention last Blog.  Ala J.K Rowling‘s experience on a train, no pen or paper handy with the idea for Harry Potter in her head, there I was with no pen or paper available, only my mind for a page.  To make matters worse, my dinner break was ten minutes from finished.  What to do?

I brainstormed that new character in my head for that ten minutes until she looked completely fleshed out and real.  I drove my car back to the job, thinking hard about those ideas of her made whole, got out and locked the car, walking a little blinded by the vision in my head. I was so desperate to hold onto her.  I could see her eyes becoming more and more real.  They haunted me until I was through the doors of my work.

So, my vision stayed with me.   My lovely one grew taller.  She gained hair and skin and a lithe physique.  Her eyes were her best feature, but all of her, well, I think I’m in love, like a parent of a new daughter I just wrote into being…except I hadn’t written her down, yet.

By the time I left work, headed home in a happy, calm mixture of thought, she gained personality traits, had a way of moving about, something of her very essence was captured.  She now existed.

So, after a start with no paper or pen, last night I finally wrote her character into my manuscript.

I added this character so readers could connect with my protagonist better, see her through the eyes of her newly created friend.  I went further to decided how she looks, speaks, acts, and interacts with my main character and the others thus far introduced.

She worked like a charm but for one thing; I love the new character so well I’m afraid she’ll take over the story!  But, if J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter could function well with such appealing characters as Hermione and Ron Weasley, okay, Ron was comic relief, perfect foil for serious Hermione, maybe I’ll be okay with this new creature just as she is.  And perhaps later on she’ll get her own story.  Could happen…

Manana I’m adding one more character to the mix, a villainous type, and perhaps two other minor characters for this book, that will grow into their own in this and the next book.  Yes, Virginia, there is a sequel to the manuscript I haven’t finished…yet!  I realized that to tell the story I have brewing, I will need more than one book unless I want it to be two thousand pages long.  Thus I’m splitting the tale as I write it into two sections.

I have yet again, through close reading of Harry Potter and a bit of knowledge about J.K. Rowling, moved ahead in my manuscript.  J.K. Rowling really does have a touch of magic…if you look into her first Harry Potter Book long enough, you will find everything you love about a good tale…and then you get to keep it and apply that magic hand to your own writing.  I could find it and keep it, and even apply it, you can, too.  Tag, you’re it.

Well, gotta add more characters, and work on catching them all up into the tale.  Cheers!

C.K. Garner

J.K. Rowling plays nicely with all the tropes and genres..


Our love worn copy of Harry Potter

I’ve been thinking about Harry Potter today in relation to writing my own novel.  I dusted off my son’s battered old copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, abandoned now that my son is twenty and moved out into the muggle world as a young adult, and began rereading it, with an eye for what drives this little volume that started a worldwide reading frenzy.

After a few chapters, I caught up on a few things that I had seen before in many, many books happily read over the years.  At the most obvious, this is a classic coming of age story.

Harry has the ability to grow, and the reader, if he starts reading this as a child, will mature right along with him, can relate to him from every aspect of what it is to be a kid.  From what he is required to eat as opposed to what he wants to eat, from  the tedium of studies, to happiness with professors  he enjoys, and the schoolyard bullies, lurking around the corners, kids, and adults who remember being a child, can relate to him.

Then there are the friendships that develop as Harry gets to know Hermione Granger, Ron and the whole Weasley clan, and learns how to relate with the other students.  He goes from a lonely child to a boy with close friendships.

Finally, there are the adult figures.

Harry has absolutely no experience with adult characters beyond the Dursleys, and he has no reason to trust any adults.   But with the arrival of childlike, if intimidating Hagrid, Harry begins to see adults in a new light, and this will continue as he grows and meets Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, and the rest of the cast, keeping in mind, he meets the not so nice ones as well, but chooses who he will associate with, once he has freedom of choice beyond the Dursley House.   Thus, Harry Potter comes of age before our very eyes through his interactions with humanity, or rather Wizards and Half Bloods and Muggles who touch his life, and change him mostly for the better.

Next, Harry Potter is a rags to riches story.   He sleeps in a cupboard, and lacks bedroom, pets, toys, friends, family and good inside or outside activity.  He has no one who sees or cares what is happening to him at the Dursley’s hands.  Creature comforts as simple as a decent bed and a good meal are denied him.  Just a couple of chapters in, he is eating savory sausages,  has a protector and companion in Hagrid, and finds a new place, richly vibrant and alive in contrast to his life with the Dursleys.  The money wealth is only secondary with all that comes his way.

Last, but only because this is such an involved subject, the tropes available just endless, Harry Potter is the classic tale of Good against Evil, and the struggle of our protagonist to learn about himself, the sacrifices his parent made, the eventual knowledge that his father wasn’t always the nicest kind of guy, the ambition to push forward and become a leader, albeit reluctantly, and the battle against the Ultimate Foe, one who goes after children…well, the need to choose between the good and the ugly and the middling ground in between lay in at the door of this classic Genre series.

So, what to do with this deluge of information?

I take it as a lesson that my novel doesn’t have to fall into just one category or subject arena.  Sure, it’s nice to bust out with something original, but the tropes laid down in stories past are still going because they are beloved familiars.  I can twist and tweak them at will just like J.K. Rowling did and does.  The good guys can become bad, the bad good.  The rich can become richer, and the poor stay poor, or the poor can gain wealth to no good end.  The lonely find a host of company, or just the reverse, find delight in the art of being alone.  It’s all up to me, and to you, the writers.

Sometimes all it takes is Hello.


A bonobo fishing for termites using a sharpene...

Something to chew on...

So, there I was, frustrated and ready to toss in the towel, bots 35, CK nada.  Then something magical happened.  Five legitimate hits made it through the mire! Each one of them a gem, a treasure, because not only were they encouraging, but they have interesting sites, really great things to say about life and pondering lies, to write or not to write and why they keep going, or what makes them feel, etc.  All of them combined kept me going, gave me new reasons to be happy, to keep writing. Ready?  Makes me think of a trip to the San Diego Zoo, I took recently.

The bonobos (very close cousin to chimps) were lounging about, engaging each other in various fashions.  One pair in particular was interesting to watch.  A bonobo was trying to scratch a spot on his back and shoulders.  I could see that he just couldn’t quite get the spot.  This went on for some time, the bonobo looking frustrated and ready to throw something, when a second bonobo knuckled up, assessed the situation, and began scratching the first ones back.  They both looked immensely pleased with themselves.  Finally, massage and scratching service finished, the second bonobo sat there, not moving, but still looking content.  The first one stretched, reached next to him, and producing a piece of fruit, inspected it, then handed it to the back scratching bonobo who saved the day.

That bonobo smiled hugely.  I swear he grinned ear to ear.  He broke the fruit open, sniffed and gloried in it, sat down next to the other and began to gnosh.  Then he stopped.  He lifted a chunk of the fruit and gave it to the one next to him, and they both sat and finished the snack, happy with the excellent agreement.

Moral of the animal tale?  The more I watch those bonobos the more I understand what it is to be human.  So to the back scratchers who made me feel like continuing the blog was worth while, I thank you, the fruit I offer will be in the form of telling everyone about you and providing links to your words from my words.  Merci, to you all, you keep me in good spirits, may those good spirits be returned to you tenfold.:)

http://ontopofthehighestpole.wordpress.com/

http://christyfarmer.wordpress.com/

http://foetalpositions.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/shenanigans-writers-block-and-inspirationalism/

http://jonathanpezman.wordpress.com/

http://storytellingnomad.wordpress.com/

Back to writing


Well, no one is going to see this but the bots as they have taken over my referral box and comment box!  Alas, Askimet does not catch them and they have overridden the Kingdom at wordpress. So I’m going to leave off Blogging for awhile until they fix the referral spam problem.  I’m not writing the Blog here for the bots, I’m writing it for the exercise it gives the mind, and for contact with other Writers and Authors, to see what they are doing, and to share what I have found in researching the road from Writer to Author.  I’m writing less, and I find myself spending more time trying to find a way around the bots and worrying about my stats than writing, and since that is what the whole blog is for, but it has been corrupted, *sigh* I just don’t see any other option.

On a happier note, I’m going back to writing offline, of course, where I always compose.  I’m about half way through the manuscript, and the decision to put my energies to that instead of fighting the bots makes me feel better already.  Makes me wonder if the Blogging is really worth it?  Perhaps the best author sites are true feedback sites, where they critique each others work.  I think that after working on my manuscript for about a week, I’ll do some research in that arena.  I’ll see you later folks!  I hope the writing links provided in my blogs will help you on your way!

Cheers!

C.K. Garner

Blog while you write to promote your manuscript, and learn the ropes of publishing before you finish.


Interaction + Sales

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

>There is a lot of advice about writing out there, but many sites fail to mention that you need to learn the ropes about publishing before you finish your manuscript.  Since I’m a new writer long the path to author, I was concerned when I got to the halfway point that I didn’t know a thing about how to get published once I have my manuscript completed and edited a thousand times.

Then I stumbled across Nathan Bransford’s Blog about Writing and Authorship. Bransford, a former agent for Curtis Brown, Ltd. and now an Author,  talks about what you need to do ahead of time, things you should be researching ahead of your completing a manuscript.  Under the title, “How to find a Literary Agent” you can connect to his straight talk about the work you need to do.  Blogging is a start.

You can read Bransford’s solid advice about how to begin, HERE.  Bransford champions learning about and beginning to promote yourself by connecting with other Writers and Authors and learning about agents before you need them…makes sense, right?  So let’s get Blogging!  Meanwhile, KEEP WRITING.

>Back to the Reason for the Blog: The Writing!


On Writing

Stephen King advises, "Kill your darlings" for better editing.

>Now that I’ve finished for the most part with creating a Blog and then transferring that Blog to WordPress Blog, I can get back to the parts I like!  Writing and Editing and Research for my manuscript. Yay!  That is today’s plan.  So, lets focus on tips for writing and editing.

I have a magic wand for you, Dear Reader, to use when editing! It is Stephen King’s formula for writing, then cutting out the clutter. This was good advice that he received from an agent after one of his manuscripts was, yet again, rejected.

Here is the formula King uses:   Second Draft = First Draft -10%

I read about the formula in Stephen King’s book, “On Writing “ recommended to me by Tone Milazzo, Author of Picking Up the Ghost , and Batton Lash, Author and Artist of  Supernatural Law . Thanks guys!

Much of  King’s book is a humorous tale of his background, and his life as a constant Writer before getting well published. But once you get to a chapter he calls “Tools the book really takes off!

The “Tools” chapter and beyond are some great, solid bites of getting your words on the page, and then editing, and to quote King, “Kill your darlings “.  What this means is, after you have decided you have edited out all you possibly could from your manuscript, after you think it is finished, do it again.  You do not have your final draft until you have killed the passages you think are “Darling”, i.e. your “keepers”, etc.  When you have rewritten your best scenes, then you are on your way to a better manuscript.

If you think it sounds nit-picky, try it.  Are there any adverbs you left in play?  Get rid of them and rewrite those sentences that contain them.  Do your Beta Readers (Also called Betas, people who read your manuscript before editor or agent) yawn each time they hit a certain passage?  Kill it!  Got a long tirade that really doesn’t move the story forward, or back story that doesn’t clearly have a reason for being there?  “Kill those Darlings!”  I’ll chat at you later after I’ve revamped my favorite passages.

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